I meant to start this series of posts last week, but like many in my corner of the world, I’m finding myself caught up in the swirl of June. Each day seems to bring another softball game, school concert, field trip, assembly, or party of some sort for my kids. Couple of all of that my own end of the year program evaluation and planning for the year ahead, and the whole blogging thing kinda falls to the bottom of the priority list. I have some time to catch my breath here this week, though.
On Saturday, teachers and kids from the WNY Young Writers’ Studio gave a reading at Barnes and Noble in Amherst as a way of celebrating the end of our time together this year and all that they’ve accomplished. Teachers read pieces written by their favorite authors and their own students, and several even read from their own work. Pam Marchewka-Cornwell published a short story for her daughter this winter, and it was so sweet to watch her read it right to her little girl on stage. Betsy Ernst read an excerpt from the travel diary she kept on a trip to Spain many, many years ago, and since I found my childhood diaries this week myself, and I’m planning to share some of the entries at this year’s summer sessions. And by the way? If anyone is looking for the address of the Rick Springfield fan club, I found it scribbled inside the cover the diary I kept in 1983….followed by thirty or more other entries devoted entirely to him. The Jonas Brothers, incidentally, still have nothing on Rick as far as I’m concerned.
Anyway, what impressed me most about Saturday were the range of ideas that inspired the choices of those who read. Catherine shared the introduction to a scary story she just began, and Abby shared a creation myth about earth, wind, water, and fire. Eliza wrote about a trip she recently took with her family, and Laura read a poem about what it means to be blue. Jenna’s loved of books wove its way through her words, and Alyssa shared an emotional piece that resonated with every women of all ages. Melanie wrote about winter, and Sarah opened our hearts to the perils of abandoned pets seeking adoption. Nina read her story about the journey to Chocolate Mountain, and Sierra took the stage last, providing an impromptu and moving performance of a poem inspired by her recent study of the Holocaust. Regardless of their ages, their interests, or the perceptions that they might maintain about their abilities, all of these writers had something important to say, they chose their words with intention, and they delivered beautiful performances.
Studio writers maintain writing territories lists, and we’ve also used a variety of strategies to tickle their imaginations and encourage them to pay attention to the details of their lives. Good writers are able to find meaning inside of moments that others might find inconsequential. Some of our favorite idea-generating activities have included:
- Discussing why filming this, this, and this was a good idea
- Using prompts, photos, and artifacts to connect to new ideas
- Paying attention to what our favorite writers write about
- Taking walks. Connecting with nature. Listening and writing.
- Exploring our own history in the same way we would explore an estate
- Considering what the contents of our purses, backpacks, lockers, and laptops reveal about us or others
- Thinking about the stories we’re afraid to tell. Knowing that often, those stories are our best and most important ones.
What are your favorite ways to generate writing ideas? What do your students enjoy doing?